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Old 05-08-2002, 10:55 PM   #1
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It's always a bit miserable booking travel at the last possible moment. You know you're in for a stressful or expensive (or both) experience when neither expedia nor orbitz will book the flight because it's too close to the time of travel.

Yesterday evening I booked my flight to RDU for today, staying through Saturday. Not even would take the reservation and I was forced to call and talk to a real person (who cheerfully booked the flight, discussed availability in itn-calibre detail, and verified at what time I could expect the next EUA run to happen... above average service, even for CO)

I had booked for a 17:10 departure from AUS for a nice, late arrival. In the wee hours of the night I received EUA emails for the two return segments (going through EWR to whore for a few hundred extra miles). Around lunchtime I received the email for the AUS-IAH segment, and the IAH-RDU segment posted during my drive to the airport. The eTicket kiosk threw up a curious "processing your upgrade" message which I'd never encountered before. Not the "would you like to be placed on the waitlist?" message I'd been anticipating. Talk about cutting it close! My five day plat window didn't buy me much reassurance this time.

Security at AUS was typical, although busier than I'm used to due to the flight time. I killed 30 minutes or so at the AUS President's Club and enjoyed the Shiner beer there in lieu of the Sam Adams found everywhere else. Boarded the 737 longbody and promptly slept all the way to Houston.

Transfer time in IAH was brief, and a phone call from dbaker occupied my time (plus a frantic walk-though in an unsuccessful attempt to find a place to buy a belt -- I missed mine in packing).

Flight crew on the RDU flight was exceptional, even by CO standards. The guy in the seat next to me ("Brad W." if his cellphone banner is to be trusted) was not much of a vegetables guy. He completely ignored his salad, skipped over the brocolli on his turkey platter dinner, and even managed to hide his squash behind his beercan. The FA made a casual joke about his not eating his vegetables and threw in the obligatory "Bush Senior" joke about the brocolli.

When it came time for our dessert selection, she brought by a tray with our choices. A pecan-marbled cheesecake, some chocolatey tiramisu thing, and (hee hee) a glass full of Brocolli which she described eloquently as a "light brocolli cup". It got a full round of snickers from myself and Brad W and the surrounding pax.

I'm not sure why it is, but little genuine moments of sincerity are one of the reasons I keep flying Continental. They're not uncommon and leagues beyond the contrived and kitchy "singing southwest stewardesses". What is it about CO that breeds this sort of attitude? It makes a world of difference.

I read mostly -- my recently-received Roundel magazine and a Grisham book. I think that if it weren't for air travel, neither Grisham or Clancy would sell more than a dozen books each. Brad W. watched Armageddon on his Dell laptop.

Touchdown in RDU was smooth. This was my first pass through the airport. Didn't see much, I mainly just raced to the Hertz shuttle and off to my car.

This is the second time for a Hertz-ism, and I think conclusive evidence of change in Hertz rental policy. For as long as I can remember I've had two conflicting pieces of preference in my club gold profile. I want "2 DR. SPORTY" and also "NEVERLOST GPS." This has *always* resulted in an "alwayslost" sporty car (no GPS). My last two rentals, however, have favored the GPS request over the car class request. A Taurus in BWI and an (oh crap) Grand Marquis today. Tonight I'll be removing NeverLost from my profile. This car is awful. I'll just buy a Garmin StreetPilot and pack it when I'm travelling. Probably cheaper in the long-run anyway.
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